Some thoughts on collection development in archives:
What does expanding the historical record offer for archivists, researchers, scholars, students, and the public? It offers the opportunity to share more stories and to better comprehend the complexity of the past. It offers more opportunities for teaching and learning—for scholarship. It reminds us that representation does matters, and it is important for those who have historically been silenced to actively participate in the acts of creating and collecting. It gives a sense of belonging, control, and of identity and connection. There are dangers here, of course—when privacy is compromised, or institutions take materials from their home communities.
What questions we ask, who asks the questions, and who we ask them of directly impacts what quality of record exists. This applies also to the important work of description—the quality of our description impacts searchability and helps our users discover and make meaning of our resources. Enabling broader access through portals such as Nebraska Archives Online allows us to more fully share our resources with audiences as opposed to being siloed away from a search box or never even described in the first place. But again, while we may control those records in our possession, we need to remember there are records and memories that will never belong to us—we need to help others keep their records safe, even if they are not traditionally accessible in the ways we normally consider.